Dear Candy - Immune Responses to Retraining
Today's question: It seems like ever since I started my retraining, I have been catching more colds and viruses. I have heard that this is par for the course and a very good sign of healing! However, it can be challenging to differentiate between normal its and viruses, which leads to overthinking. What would be the best way to navigate this type of situation?
The immune system is such a critical part of our wellbeing. When our systems have been dysregulated or have been in a state of chronic distress for a period of time, one of two things happen. Either we end up getting sick repeatedly, or the immune system stops fighting the external viruses, etc. that we encounter altogether and we don't get any colds or flus (along with sometimes attacking ourselves from within). When we reset the nervous system and the brain, the immune system can begin to normalize its functioning once again. For some people, this means getting more cold and flus initially. The way that I like to think about it is this. If the immune system has not been fighting what has been coming your way, and now it is coming back online and has a new capacity to do so, it is going to take some time to sort its functioning out. Remember that in healthy people, getting one to two colds/flus, etc. a year is not only a good sign of healthy immunity, but it is preferable because when your immune system has to work to fight something off, it gives it a workout and strengthens the system overall.
How we relate to this process mentally and emotionally is really important. And the beautiful
part is you don't have to know if this is an "it" or it is a cold/virus. We want to treat it the same way regardless.
Remind yourself that this is just your immune system sorting itself out. This is temporary. Label the negative thoughts for what they are. For example, "this is my brain obsessing", "this is my brain fortune telling the future.", etc. Separate yourself from the messages your brain is giving you. You are not those messages.
The more calm and relaxed and positive we can be during this process, the more resources and tools your immune system has to work with. We don't want to prolong the process by becoming hypervigilent or over focused on what is happening. If we add fear and stress to the equation, it becomes even more difficult for the immune system to do its job, and it takes even longer to sort itself out. (And if you did get caught up in hyper vigilance or over focusing up to now, be kind to yourself, have some self-compassion for doing the best you could, and choose to engage with it differently starting now).
When we are overwhelmed by physical symptoms it can be challenging to not focus on it and redirect to other things. And yet, it is key that we keep doing so to the best of our ability and as much as possible. This is where digging deep and taking the reins of control back from your limbic system is necessary. And if you find yourself stuck in a battle with your brain, then use a good old fashioned distraction to something that takes your attention away from what is happening internally and gives you a break from having to work so hard to redirect. Funny movies or a good book can work wonders. And while we may not want to use the technique of distraction to something totally unrelated all the time, it does serve its purpose when things are intense. Remember too that elevated emotions boost our immune system, so keep elevating those emotions in whatever way works best for you.
Having our immune system activated in this way called us to a deeper level of trust - in ourselves and in the process of rewiring. If you're finding it hard to have faith, use the countless examples of others who have gone through the exact same thing and come out the other side as your inspiration. You can absolutely do it too!
Next week: Identifying & working with Automatic Negative Thoughts
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com